When To Start Scar Treatment Post Surgery: Your Guide to Healing

Scars are a natural part of the healing process after plastic surgery. While they serve as a testament to your transformative journey, minimizing their appearance is often a top priority. After all, you’ve invested in achieving a renewed sense of confidence, and visible scars might not align with that vision.

This guide dives deep into the world of surgical scar treatment, exploring the intricacies of wound healing, scar treatments and when to use them. Plus, we’ll share how Dr. Vitolo’s Scar Less surgical techniques can help you achieve beautiful results with virtually no visible scarring.

Understanding Wound Healing

Before diving into scar treatment strategies, let’s go over the remarkable process of wound healing. It consists of three distinct phases, each playing a key role in scar formation. 

1. Inflammation Phase (1-3 Days)

This initial phase is characterized by inflammation, a necessary response to ward off infection and initiate healing. You might experience redness, swelling and some discomfort as your body sends white blood cells to the rescue.

2. Proliferation Phase (3 Days – 3 Weeks)

Now, reconstruction can begin. Specialized cells called fibroblasts rebuild the damaged tissue by laying down collagen, the building block of healthy skin, to bridge the surgical incision. The quality and organization of this collagen deposition significantly impact the final appearance of your scar.

3. Maturation Phase (3 Weeks – 1 Year)

The final stage focuses on refinement and strengthening. Collagen matures and remodels, aiming to create a scar that closely resembles healthy skin. This process can take up to a year.

While scar tissue shares some similarities with “normal” skin, it lacks the intricate network of blood vessels, hair follicles, and sweat glands found in healthy skin. This difference contributes to the often-discolored and sometimes raised appearance of scars. Additionally, scar tissue can be less flexible, potentially affecting movement or causing discomfort.

Understanding Different Types of Scars

Not all scars are created equal. While the ideal outcome is a flat, barely noticeable scar, various factors can influence scar formation and the type of scar you end up with.

Normal scars appear as a thin, flat line that blends seamlessly with your surrounding skin. This is the essence of a normal scar, the most desirable result after surgery. These scars typically fade significantly over time, requiring minimal intervention for optimal healing.

Abnormal scars may require more aggressive intervention and include:

  • Hypertrophic scars: These raised, red scars usually stay confined to the original incision site. While they may cause some discomfort, they typically flatten and soften over time with proper scar management techniques.
  • Keloid Scars: Keloids can extend beyond the original incision, forming raised, often itchy or tender bumps. Keloids are more common in individuals with darker skin tones and require more advanced treatment approaches.
  • Pigmentation issues: Sometimes, the healing process can lead to changes in skin pigmentation around the scar. Hyperpigmentation occurs when the scar area becomes darker than the surrounding skin tone, while hypopigmentation is lighter.

When Should I Start Scar Treatment After Surgery?

The process of minimizing scars starts the moment your surgery ends. First, proper wound care ensures an optimal environment for your skin to heal itself. Then, topical treatments for scars and massage are your ally in creating the healthiest scar tissue possible. Here’s our breakdown of the top products and techniques you’ll use and when:


Petroleum jelly-based ointments like Aquaphor help create a moist environment that promotes healing and protects the delicate new skin cells forming at the incision site.

By keeping the wound bed moist, Aquaphor minimizes scab formation and promotes faster closure, potentially reducing the overall scar size.

When to use it: During initial wound healing, or the first few days post-surgery.

Scar Massage

Scar massage is a gentle, non-invasive technique that involves applying pressure and strokes in a circular motion to the scar tissue. Massage can improve blood flow and stimulate collagen production, leading to softer, more pliable scar tissue. It can also help reduce scar contractures, which can restrict movement or cause discomfort.

When to use it: Scar massage can be initiated once the initial wound healing is complete, typically around 2-3 weeks after surgery once sutures have dissolved or been removed. It’s most effective when combined with other scar management techniques like silicone therapy.

Silicone Sheets 

Medical-grade silicone gel sheets mimic the skin’s natural barrier function, keeping the scar hydrated and preventing excessive collagen production. This can lead to a flatter, smoother scar appearance.

When to use: Silicone therapy is most effective when introduced during the scar maturation phase, typically around 6-8 weeks after surgery. Consistent use throughout this extended period can significantly impact scar formation.

Scar Creams 

Over-the-counter scar creams like Mederma contain ingredients like Cepalin botanical extract and allantoin, which are generally considered to promote healing and tissue regeneration. They are thought to work by hydrating the scar tissue and reducing inflammation. However, there is limited scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of scar creams like Mederma for significantly reducing scar formation.

When to use: Mederma can be used during the scar maturation phase, typically around 6-8 weeks after surgery. Consult with your doctor to ensure the wound is fully healed before applying any topical scar creams. 

Treatment Options for Scar Revision

Despite your best efforts, it’s possible that you may end up with a raised or keloid scar months after surgery. In that case, you may consider a scar revision procedure such as steroid injections. These deliver a concentrated dose of anti-inflammatory medication directly into the scar tissue to reduce inflammation and suppress excessive collagen production, leading to a flattening of raised scar tissue. For mature abnormally  pigmented scars, laser treatments can ablate the area to encourage new, healthier scar formation and boost collagen production.

Dr. Vitolo’s Top Tips for Healthy Healing

We understand that achieving optimal scar healing is an integral part of your overall surgical experience. Dr. Vitolo, our board-certified plastic surgeon, shares his top tips for maximizing your success:

1. Wear Sunscreen Every Day

Sun exposure is a major enemy of healthy scar tissue. The harsh UV rays can darken scars and impede proper healing. Sun exposure can disrupt collagen production, leading to a thicker, more noticeable scar..

Consistent use of sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) safeguards your healing skin, allowing it to focus on optimal recovery, and significantly reduces the risk of hyperpigmentation around scars.

2. Eat a Healthy Diet 

What you put into your body can impact your healing process. Prioritize whole foods that contain essential nutrients like vitamin C and E, both vital for collagen production and overall skin health. Include fruits, vegetables, and nuts in your diet for a natural boost.

3. Be Patient!

Scar treatment is a marathon, not a sprint–remember, the scar maturation phase can last up to a year. Consistent scar care throughout this period is crucial for achieving the best results.

Keep in mind that healing rates vary from person to person. Trust the process and celebrate even subtle improvements as your scar continues to mature.

Discover Dr. Vitolo’s Scar Less Techniques

Dr. Vitolo is a pioneer in the field of minimally invasive or “Scar Less” surgical techniques. These specialized approaches utilize smaller incisions and advanced surgical methods, leading to several benefits:

  • Reduced Scar Formation: Smaller incisions naturally translate to less scar tissue formation. This minimizes the need for extensive scar treatment post-surgery.
  • Faster Healing: Minimally invasive techniques often lead to quicker healing times and less postoperative discomfort.
  • Enhanced Aesthetics: Smaller, strategically placed incisions can be positioned for optimal concealment, further promoting a more aesthetically pleasing outcome.

If you’re considering plastic surgery and minimizing scarring is a top priority, contact Dr. Vitolo Plastic Surgery in Staten Island, NY to discuss using his Scar Less surgical techniques for your specific procedure.

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